AA#1: Concept-Driven Interaction Design Research: Stolterman and Wiberg, Human-Computer Interaction Vol. 25

16 Sep

The first article that I am researchering focuses on making concept driven interaction design a plausible form of research.  Concept driven approaches aim to manifest theoretical concepts in concrete designs.  Primarily, the authors of this article, Erik Stolterman and Mikael Wiberg, question why concept-driven approaches have not been explicitly recognized as a proper research methodology.  This article explores integration of concept driven interaction with current studies of human-interface theories.  It conducts a qualitative study of current design principles and skills, and in turn compares them to ideas sculpting that on concept-driven design.  The researchers found that concept-driven approaches can coexist with traditional user-centered theory by proposing a model that focuses not just on the final product, but reiteration of the product from the conceptual phase onward.  It also acknowledges that the major risk in taking up this type of research is that good concept design is generally more difficult than it is successful; however, it’s contributions to Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) is still extremely significant.

The majority of this article is very heavily based around the ideation that HCI is limiting itself by not including concept-driven interaction design.  The examples pulledi n the article reference three major projects that were recognized as both successful and concept-driven: DynaBook, a learning module for children; ActiveBadges, a mobile tracking device made for tracking indoors; and Bricks, a digital manipulation program similar to that of a renderign program.  My primary concerns with the paper are as follows: while DynaBook, ActiveBadges, and Bricks are all ‘cornerstones’ of this type of research, the fact of the matter is most of it is outdated.  These are theorems built as early as the 1970s, giving HCI plenty of time to develop and grow in favor of user-centered design.  The most recent achievement of the three listed is Bricks, and that goes as far as 1995.  I agree with the researchers that this form of research could be extremely useful, but they would benefit greatly from getting something more recent to support the argument; utilizing the sources listed gives off the impression that it is outdated. 

Later in this article, it actively discusses how the execution of concept-driven interaction design is extremely difficult.  Why advocate a process that is extremely hard to execute if we have a handful that we (as researchers) know is much simpler, and, ultimately, effective?  I get a steady impression that the concept-driven design is attempting to ‘lump’ multiple steps in a design process and declare it as a new research method (again, this is my opinion we’re talking about).  Interaction research is technically consider part of the design research process, and is used widely in an array of tasks (management, marketing, simple research, etc.).  The article argues that concept-driven interaction design research differs from design-oriented research because it utilizes both design centered and theory oriented principles-however, I still feel that it is trying to expedite a process taht is already well known and utilized. 

In conclusion, I feel that this theory has some merit and potential to contribute to HCI, however the basis defining is still somewhat weak.  In theory, it sounds very logical and effective, but there are too many factors that the authors have admitted make it extremely difficult to execute, and in turn would convince one to instead use previous proven methods.

-Vanessa B!
Reference: Stolterman, Erik and Wiberg, Mikael(2010) ‘Concept-Driven Interaction Design Research’, Human-Computer Interaction, 25: 2, 95 – 118.


Posted by on September 16, 2010 in Uncategorized


5 responses to “AA#1: Concept-Driven Interaction Design Research: Stolterman and Wiberg, Human-Computer Interaction Vol. 25

  1. Rebecca Ivic

    October 5, 2010 at 6:43 pm

    Could you clarify what the study explored? I don’t have a clear sense of what the researchers examined in the methodology.

    Are the examples of DynaBook, ActiveBadges, and Bricks seminal works? Given what the article explores, it sounds like the authors selected these examples because they are formative within interaction design. I agree with you that more recent examples of concept-driven interactions would be useful, but that may also be a limitation due to a present lack of data.

  2. msvanessab

    October 6, 2010 at 12:09 am

    Sure thing(at least, I will try as it wasn’t horribly clear to me).

    The experiment within this article attempted to explore how effective a ‘concept driven interactive design’ would work in comparison to ‘user-oriented’ design. The study itself does not evalute any users, or specific criteria-it is merely an observation of how the two models are similar; in turn, the authors compare and contrast the specified models. More concretely: the methodology utilized is of a qualitative analysis; they took the ‘pros and cons’ of user-centered design as it applies today and are pitching the pros/cons of concept driven interaction design, and as a result are justifying how it can be utilized as its own form of research in regards to HCI (let me know if that clarifies it, I’m more than happy to share the literature).

    Yes, the works mentioned are seminal-of the three listed, they all explored designs that were implemented before the user was considered. In their own respects they are successful; my concern comes mostly from the fact that this does not change that they were abandoned in some regard-be it advanced models that focused more on user-centered designs, or simply considered obsolete after a certain period of time. It is not to say that they should go completely unnoticed.

    I suppose I should have stated that my main ‘gripe’/concern about this reserach is as follows: while it does pitch a good idea for HCI, and it proves that the design has worked in the past, the paper does not present anything to me that is highly relevant to pushing towards an establishment of this design. Bluntly speaking: as I read it, I got a great deal of opinion (which, given that it was qualitative research, is somewhat expected) that wasn’t backed by much more than a statement of ‘you have to believe us!’ The methodology did not assess any outside users, and is instead relying very heavily on past product combined with the authors’ opinions. I agree with you whole-heartedly that a present lack of data could very well be the root of this theory’s ‘demise’; it does not change the fact however, that until another group or company is willing to research this in a fashion such that the design has been implemented, the time gap of usage will most likely come into question. With that said, it makes me wonder if this research was particularly formulated as a sort of ‘psuedo-catalyst’ to encourage someone to test it further and prove that the form of research is highly effective. Right now, this paper is just giving me ‘their word’.

  3. Rebecca Ivic

    October 6, 2010 at 6:23 pm

    Thanks for the clarification, Vanessa! I’m intrigued by this area of research and I really like your thoughts on the article. Sounds like a promising area and a lot of different studies that could be done as a result. 🙂

  4. Mihaela

    October 7, 2010 at 8:13 pm

    I don’t really understand how concept-driven design, based on existing principles and theories, can replace user-centered design. The assumption is that those concepts and theories are applicable to the particular set of users you’re designing for. This makes it an over-generalization, which really goes against the ethos of a lot of qualitative research! (and they claim they are qualitative researchers.) Maybe I misunderstood the article?

    Oh, and qualitative research is not really mostly opinion 🙂 It can have a lot of value and validity. Please don’t let this article influence your opinion of qualitative research.

  5. msvanessab

    October 8, 2010 at 12:22 am

    I don’t think they’re aiming to replace it, but rather the two designs to coexist. Hence my first conclusion-it’s difficult, less reliable, and overall, outdated. Why would I use this?! this was the drive of my entire third paragraph.

    I didn’t mean to generalize by saying ‘generally expected’-I should have specified to this particular article; it doesn’t give a true method, or test, it just talks extensively about a method they think is undermined, which is where the basis of my conversation would start on outdated material and ‘opinions.’ I still think it could carry some merit in the future, but right now, I’m not seeing a point when he have a fully functional method at the ready. If they’re willing to explore it, and they find a way to make it a) successful and b) coexist, then they will have some form of support from me.


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